Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton – Week of December 6, 2021

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of December 6, 2021

West Side Story
Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, brief smoking, strong language, suggestive material and thematic content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
In Theaters

When it was announced several years ago that Steven Spielberg would be re-making the 1961 musical West Side Story for his next picture, I just couldn’t understand why he would do that. It was such a classic and winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture. I figured he could do it, but why would he. This has been looming over the movie for a while now, especially since its release was delayed an entire year due to the pandemic. But after experiencing this new version, I feel like I understand the why, and am glad he did. The story, based on Romeo and Juliet, revolves around post-WWII New York City as a gang of white hooligans named the “Jets” attempt to protect their turf from the ever-growing population of Puerto Ricans by rumbling with their gang, the “Sharks”. But when the former leader of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the Shark’s leader, the violence between the two becomes impossible to control, resulting in inevitable tragedy. While the original more than touched on issues of racism and fear of immigrants, the movie was largely white-washed (with white actors playing some of the lead roles of the Puerto Ricans) and could only go so far with its adult theme. Now, decades later, Spielberg is able to not only put up a fantastically talented race-appropriate cast, but he is much more able to examine the xenophobia from the day, making it even more relevant to today. In addition, Tony-winning screenwriter Tony Kushner changes and enhances many of the elements of the original material in order for their to be more coherence and to add color to the backstories of the well-known characters. And while the songs are largely left the same here, the choreography is much more dynamic and less distracting. Equal to the original are some really terrific performances by a young and vibrant cast. I can easily see a full list of Oscar contenders with Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo and Mike Faist as Riff. To make things even more interesting, Rita Moreno won the Oscar as Anita in the original, and it is very possible we might be seeing her name mentioned in the running again in this new version as she replaces the white male shopkeeper and employer of Tony (Ansel Elgort) in a new pivotal role created for her. I won’t go as far as to say that I lost faith in Spielberg after hearing about this project, but I am now certainly glad he did it. I found the movie to be an electrifying experience and am thankful I got to relive it in this fantastic new visionary creation. A+

Being the Ricardos
Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

In Theaters December 10 and Streaming on Amazon Prime December 21
From writer/director Aaron Sorkin comes this story about the iconic actress Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman), focusing on how she came to be America’s most loved actress and how she protected herself from the accusations of her being a communist in the 50’s. As an impersonation flick, this succeeds pretty well. Kidman is about as close as we’ll get to Ball in looks and charisma. I was also very impressed with J.K. Simmons who played William Frawley, the actor who played Fred Mertz. Here he has such command over his character as he becomes the most believable and memorable member of the cast. Unfortunately, Javier Bardem is terribly miscast as Desi Arnaz and becomes quite a distraction as the film evolves. As far as the story goes, the material is at times interesting, but the flow is incredibly confusing. There is quite a bit of time travel throughout the movie and it is hardly clear when in time we are watching. And because there are so many narratives going on, the focus of the picture comes across as vague. This ends up being a huge and surprising mistake coming from one of Hollywood’s greatest storytellers. Overall, this might be a film for all of the Lucy fans that are still out there, but for most it will be a forgettable disappointment. C+